Police say the five Australians planned to leave for the Syrian war zone. Photo / AP
Five men have been arrested on suspicion that they planned to leave Australia
in a 7m boat to fight in Syria
The men, aged 21 to 33, had towed the half-cabin power boat with a car 2800km from their homes in Melbourne to Cairns before they were arrested, police said.
All had their passports cancelled to prevent them leaving the country to fight for extremist groups such as Isis (Islamic State).
The men were being held on suspicion of breaking a federal law banning foreign incursions, Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan said.
Entering or preparing to enter a foreign country to engage in a hostile activity is a crime punishable by life imprisonment.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said the men planned to travel by boat through Indonesia to the Philippines. He did not specify how they planned to get from the Philippines to Syria.
“We can’t allow Australians to leave Australia and support terrorism anywhere,” he said.”This is a serious attempt by five men who are of security interest to us who have had their passports canceled in attempting to exit Australia … and then ultimately we’re investigating the intention to possibly end up in Syria to fight,” Patton told reporters.
The men had been under police investigation for weeks. Police would not say when they left Melbourne or where they intended to leave Australia.
Gaughan said the men were known to have “extremist views.” Police declined to identify them.
Attorney-General George Brandis later said the men were arrested in Queensland north of Cairns but would not say where.
It was the first suspected attempt by would-be foreign fighters to leave Australia by boat, he said.
Security officials estimate 110 Australians are fighting for the Islamic State group in the Middle East